Managing climate change in the city

A climate adaptation plan designed and implemented with local stakeholders to increase resilience on a metropolitan scale

Labelisation date : 02/06/2017

  • Bologna , Italy

  • Size of city : 386 298 inhabitants

  • Contact

    Giovanni Fini

    Senior expert


Within the framework of the EU Life+ Project BLUEAP (Bologna Local Urban Adaptation Plan for a resilient city), the City of Bologna (IT) identified and analysed risks, hazards and main vulnerabilities related to climate change, water scarcity, heat waves, extreme weather events. Drawing on its local vulnerabilities, Bologna's Adaptation Plan in 2015 outlined the strategy and actions in the management of green space and water by the different levels of government in the territory. The Plan consists of a local strategy and an Action Plan that translates these strategies into measures. Strategy and Plan make reference to a medium-term time frame until 2025. In the light of the plan a package of integrated pilot actions has been launched: drinking water saving and water treatment, collection and storage of rainwater, targeted use of plant species to improve the microclimate and reduce air pollution, pre-emptive insurance against risks. The plan was the final step of a participatory process which started with a study of the urban area in terms of ecosystems, population, population distribution and census, production activities, natural resources and of its main vulnerabilities related to climate change. The process continued with the ranking of potential risks and with stakeholder engagement to define actions for the Climate Adaptation Plan.

The solutions offered by the good practice

The Bologna Adaptation Plan can be considered a good practice for results achieved not only as a planning instrument, but also as a concrete collaborative action plan of the City which represents an example for cities that share Bologna’s climate conditions and urban and social environment.

The structure of the Plan can be replicated in other medium-size cities, as well as some actions which are more suitable to their uses and needs.

As the Plan is the final step of a participatory process which led to its editing, the whole process can be considered a good practice. The process starts with a downscaled climate analysis, a study of the area in terms of ecosystems, population, population distribution and census, production activities, natural resources and its main vulnerabilities related to climate change. Ranking of potential risks are derived from such vulnerabilities.

Afterwards the stakeholder engagement process led to the identification of actions for the bottom-up editing of the Plan, together with a top-down engagement leading to more effective governance through collaborative problem solving, also with public-private partnerships.

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

Adaptation to climate change needs a cross-cutting approach for successful implementation, as many issues and actors are involved. Adaptation is also strongly linked to sustainability in a broad sense, as every action has to be considered in terms of its economic, human and social costs and benefits.

From this perspective, the Bologna Adaptation Plan is committed to the values of a more sustainable environment for urban living and health. The decrease of vulnerable populations exposed to the effects of climate change is one of the key pillars of the Plan. All the actions aiming to increase resilience to heat waves, for example, also have an important impact on social cohesion.

As already pointed out, Bologna’s practice takes a holistic approach to improving resilience actions, whose effectiveness is considered in relationship with the environmental compartments and the social and environmental tissue. For example, all the actions to strengthen resilience to drought take into account the interaction with bodies of water and are strongly related to measures to increase soil permeability in more vulnerable areas.

The integration of actions and measures from a local to a metropolitan scale was possible only through a strong stakeholder involvement of decision-makers, public bodies, companies, citizens and research institutes. They all were involved in different roundtables with specific themes, in restricted sessions and workshops.

Based on a participatory approach

Bologna enjoys a tradition of environmental protection and the creation of participation pathways aimed at developing action plans, the sharing of objectives and the definition of steps. The Adaptation Plan has been built with a participatory course of collaboration, in which individuals are also actors of the plan’s steps.

Starting with documents prepared within the project, a map of stakeholders in the territory was created. The individuals involved in the plan belong to Public Authorities, public and listed companies, the world of training, universities and schools, specialist agencies, service managers, multi-utilities, consortia, trade associations, consumer associations, environmental and territorial protection associations, businesses and foundations.

From the intersection of vulnerabilities and individuals involved, a course of involvement was developed. The course included various meetings according to the categories to which the stakeholders belong (politicians, citizens, representatives of the production sector) and the phases of implementation of the steps outlined in the Plan.

The political commitment was essential for the implementation of the actions, first of all because it involved directly many decision-makers and the city council as a whole, which officially approved the Plan. Moreover, an active political involvement strengthened the efforts made with all the stakeholders, as it gave full legitimacy to the process leading to the Adaptation Plan itself.

What difference has it made?

The Bologna practice achieved some results, as 10 pilot actions carried out successfully. Some of them are described below and concerned the Municipality Regulations, with the insertion of “New targets for water saving in the Building Code”, the “New arboreal varieties more adaptive to climate change in the Municipality Green Code”, and the “New guidelines for sustainable drainage” aimed at integrating the municipality guidelines for public works with SUDS technologies applicable to the local context of Bologna.

A promotional campaign (“Green-up Bologna”) focused on the promotion of planting and terrace horticulture.

The “Sustainable management of rain water in a new commercial building (Via Larga)” was planned within the Urban Building Plan (PUA).

An agreement with an important insurance company increased information and knowledge transfer in the reduction of damages and losses in the Bologna area.

A very important goal, even if not directly measurable, is the impact of the Adaptation Plan on the planning activity of the local authorities. Resilience is starting to become a point of discussion in decision-making and technical planning on the ground.

Furthermore, thanks to the BLUEAP project, a new project called “RAINBO” started in 2016 and some actions of the Plan are now under evaluation for financing by the EIB (European Investment Bank).

Why should other European cities use it?

Our practice would be interesting for other European cities committed to climate change adaptation. Even if adaptation topics need to be assessed locally, the methodology used for vulnerability and adaptation strategy assessment and implementation can be shared and discussed with other cities.

The city of Bologna successfully experienced an exchange of good practices related to adaptation to climate change within the “City Twinning” programme promoted by the Mayors Adapt initiative. The two visiting cities (City of Lleida, Spain, and the Union of Terra di Leuca, Italy) came for a two-day visit to learn from Bologna’s experience with urban adaptation to climate change and to share common challenges as a result of climate change: water management (water scarcity, storm water, waste water, water supply, flooding); heat waves and urban heat islands, extreme water events that affect urban agriculture and biodiversity as well as posing hurdles to public health. The twinning visit was very fruitful for all the partners, and highlighted the need to build closer contacts between cities engaged in climate change adaptation topics.

Knowledge transfer and peer-to-peer networks represent an important step to spread the good practice and to learn from other city experiences, with a special regard of methodologies used and problems encountered.